In case you missed it, on 12 December, former PM Tun Mahathir attended and spoke at the launch of his new memoir Capturing Hope: The Struggle Continues for A New Malaysia.
During this launch, Mahathir said a few things that were deemed incendiary, mostly relating to assimilation.
He spoke up about how the Chinese and Indians in Malaysia don’t identify simply as Malaysians but Chinese-Malaysian and Indian-Malaysian.
He was quoted saying, “They are born here, brought up here, grew up here, but they still link to (their ancestral roots). So this divides the people.
“Because of that (strong sense of racial identity), they cannot be assimilated.”
He continued to criticise the way the Chinese name their children, which led to many netizens scratching their heads.
He said, “Like changing names, for example, China decided to spell names with a lot of ‘X’, ‘Z’, and all that. Now, Malaysians are also doing that.
“But we are Malaysians. We have our own Chinese. The tendency is always to identify with the country of origin.”
However, the most baffling statement by the former PM is as follows:
“The Chinese eat with chopsticks. We eat with [our] hands. They have not adopted the Malaysian way of eating food.
“They retain the chopsticks, which is an identity [of] China, not Malaysia.”
The statement came out-of-left-field and was promptly taken as a joke by Malaysian netizens.
Like clockwork, many memes sprouted from this one quote. Here are the funniest (and most honest) responses:
Are we supposed to celebrate the diversity of our cultures so we can uphold our title as the “melting-pot” of South East Asia or are we supposed to wipe our country clean of cultures from minorities in order to assimilate since the former PM also said, “Others do not want to identify themselves as Malays. That is the problem.”
The jury’s still out on this one but perhaps the rule of thumb is to not listen to a man whose opinions are as dated as his age.